A few weeks ago I went to the Kroller Muller museum in the Netherlands, with a friend of mine and her little girl (6 or 7yrs old I can’t remember). My friend loves art, however she has not been to an art museum or gallery in the last few years. As she wandered around the museum, the little girl seemed to be attached to me and followed me around.
In front of a painting I ask ‘What do you think this is?’ I thought – this looks like a whale’s tail. She said with great conviction “It is a cup!” when asked why she was so sure, explained “that is the handle and that is the cup”. When I said “It looks like a whale’s tail”, she looked at me like I was stupid and said ” No it is definitely a cup.” I actually thought it was probably not anything – just brush strokes or an abstract concept.
We moved on and found a cabinet full of small black metal sculptures. Then she pointed at and object and said “See it is this cup! It is a cup” She pointed back and forth to the black chalice (cup) and to the painting. It was definitely a sculpture of a chalis. I read later on that it was the object the artist was drawing from. An older gentleman saw me, her, the painting, the cup, smiled and nodded at me. I smiled too. I thought – this is cool.
The museum had a children’s trail that shows a close-up of a small part of a painting and encouraged them to go and find the real painting and answer a question. This one for example: What is the man looking at?
When we found the painting, it was a cubist piece, and the odd angles and 2 dimensional nature made it very hard to work out what the man was looking at. I thought – is he looking at the other’s man neck/ back?- I asked the girl whether she thinks the same, she said “No, he is not looking at that, this is his head sideways and he is looking at this, (pointing at the top of the left hand side of the painting), what ever it is”.
The gallery was reasonably quiet at that moment, but there was an elderly lady that was watching us intently, so intently I thought she didn’t like the girl pointing too closely at the painting. I ignored the stare and went to read the interpretation, and it said that it is an image of a storm. So she was right again those two men were looking at the storm from the harbour. I said ” hey you are right …”. The girl had already walked away to find the other paintings. As I followed her out the old lady smiled at me and went to have a closer look at the painting.
During our time together going around the museum the little girl and I were given a lot of strange looks, I don’t know whether they have not seen a kid in an art museum before or whether we just look strange in general. Haha!
Maybe it is because there are not many kids her age or younger in the museum. There are plenty outside the museum in the gardens but not in the museum itself. This is maybe because the fee to the museum is an extra to the park, maybe because it is too expensive or whatever. Or maybe they are still in the time where they think that modern art are not for children.Maybe it was just this particular museum or the people present that day. Because I have been to the Stad Museum in Amsterdam, it seems that they have similar attitude towards kids there to those at the Tate. I don’t know. But I somehow felt that the stares were not the kind ones, until the girl came up with clever answers obviously.
I don’t think I ever witnessed this in museums in England, or experienced it even when I brought along my 5 years old nephew to museums, he just blends in, no one minds, like Tincture of Museum said in her blog about the Kids in Museum award, children’s/family friendly museum programmes are thriving.
Have you been to a modern art museum with kids outside the UK? What were your experiences? Did you have a similar one to mine or was it like in the UK (where they are usually welcomed)?